For the longest time gamers have had to make do with repurposed telephone headsets that manufacturers would rebrand in some l337-speak moniker and bundle a cheap game with. This may have resulted in cheap headsets..but it also resulted in cheap feeling and performing headsets, especially the ones that had attached LED that made you look ridiculous. Astro Gaming saw fit to actually take the needs of gamers seriously and produce a headset and mixamp that is specifically designed for their needs.
Design: A design you can wear without being embarrassed by – TheTechInsider.
The leading critique that many games had of the headsets marketed to them was the blatant attempt to make it look “gadgety”. LED’s should never by on a headset…since you cannot see them by the virtue of them being on your head. Headsets should never be emblazoned with l337-speak mottos. Finally headsets should not simply look like telephone headsets underneath the additional accouterments, especially if your paying a premium for their gaming capabilities.
Astro falls into none of theses design traps by designing their A40 from the ground up. Their headset and mixamp are both proprietary designs, which you will never see being used in a call center.
The headset is an over the ear design with the ear cups riding independently from the frame via a swivel joint. The plastic frame feels strong and robust, definitely not made from the cheap plastics that plague other manufacturer’s headset designs. The ear cups and the head band are comfortably padded without making the headset unduly bulky. The microphone feels strong, like it wont break after just a single nights hard use, and it stays in place when rotated or flexed.
The mixamp follows a far more minimalist design than other mixamps on the market. It has just two dials and two buttons, which makes it far more usable then some competing designs that are almost soundboards with their myriad of buttons (Logitech, I am looking at you here). The mix amp feels solid, like a brick of well made electronics (like an Ipod for example). I don’t know if the dials are made of metal or just a metal applique on plastic, but they feel firm and have no play that would indicate sub-par manufacturing.
Features: Well thought professional gamer features that even amateurs appreciate.
There are a lot of little things about the A40 audio system that make you wonder, why didn’t the other manufacturers do this? First is the switchable microphone which allows you to put the microphone on the left or right ear cup. The panels that cover the sides of the ear cups can also be switched, which allows for you to put in custom designs or even leave them off. The headset has a quick disconnect, which keeps you from having the headset ripped off you head if someone trips over the wires.
The mixamp has wires that can hook up to either a PC or an Xbox, or even your Ipod if you just want to listen to music. The most innovative part is the game/voice dial which can adjust the ratio of audio inputs from the game and from the voice of your teammates. This is incredibly useful and allows you to compensate for that one, and there always is that one guy in every game, that has the Walmart microphone that barely registers his voice yet inexplicably blares out the ICP songs playing in the background.
Ergonomics: It’s comfortable for a few minutes or a few hours.
The title pretty much says it all, it is well padded without being excessively bulky or cumbersome. The headset is fully adjustable and the wires use rubber instead of plastic so they do not chafe. The mixamps controls are easy to access and the hand naturally falls onto the dials.
Pricing: The kicker; you knew it was coming.
The bad news, you can buy several headsets from Logitech, Steelseries, or any other competitor for the price of a single A40. However the good news is that the $250 that you spend on the A40 system will be the best money you have ever spent on a computer accessory. Furthermore, it might be the last you have to spend. I have had mine for close to two years now and it performs the same as the day I bought it.
Conclusion: Worth it.
Currently there is nothing on the market, other than multi-thousand dollar audio monitor (fancy word for headset in the music business) that can match the build quality and design of the A40 system. $250 may seem steep but it will get you one of the finest headsets and mixamps on the market and it wont make you look ridiculous at the LAN party.